Xenoblade (9/9/9/9, 36 points): The top game of the week, and a review score that's particularly striking because even Xenogears -- director Tetsuya Takahashi's most famous RPG -- received only 31 points upon its release in 1997. "The massive field to explore, plus the sheer number of side quests, is enough to make you forget about the main story," one writer said. "The battles are also excellent, requiring you to constantly think about your position against the enemy's."
While the story was interesting to the review crew, much of the praise was reserved for the battle system, which is "MMORPG-style in the way it plainly defines every character's role in the fight [...]It's hard to keep track of everything when a lot of enemies are attacking at once, but the chaos that results just adds to the tension."
I checked out some more videos.
The spirit of this game seems to be that of old SNES/Genesis RPGs translated to 3D and incorporating other modern elements.
It's all about the open world/field, with the story taking you on a grand tour of it rather than the world being a tunnel created for the story.
I need to start ignoring this game now so I'll forget about it until it is released outside Japan.
Just came across this on andriasang (though it's old)
Design philosophy also appears to be different here. Past titles from Monolith have focused on events and scenario, Takahashi admitted. However, he feels that this type of development has reached a "dead end." The Xenoblade project started off by looking at the origins of the RPG genre. Takahashi wanted to make a game where it was simply enjoyable to adventure.